I've talked about fiction, I've talked about music, so it's time to talk about one of my other great loves and that is what goes in my belly. So this blog post will simply be a list of the best things I consumed while in the USA for the past three months (with reasons for why they're great). Now listen up, here's some great ways to put on over half a stone in three months.
20) Ace Pineapple Cider - It's possible the reason this is so high is that I drank it at the Pittsburgh Beer Fest and my memory of that is mildly blurry, because there were too many drinks to remember them all. Also, there were too many drinks. Still, I remember it being immensely drinkable, and far more pineapple-y than most other attempts at pineapple alcohol I've ever had, except for the following...
19) Ballast Point Pineapple Sculpin - A very unusual choice for me, in that I'm not a huge IPA fan, and that goes double when mixed with fruit. See Southern Tier Tangier, which I wanted to love but couldn't quite do so. I did love Pineapple Sculpin though. Weirdly, a better beer from the bottle than on draft, but really good either way.
18) Cajun Dusted Chicken wings with Sexxy Sriracha Sauce - Before causing my digestive system to meltdown, I ate quite a lot from my gorgeous fiancée's place of work, Three Rivers Six Pack. This became my go to choice, with the earthy, smoky cajun dust counter-balancing the sugar and spice of the sauce beautifully. Now probably my favourite way to have wings.
17) Everything at Monell's Dining & Catering in Nashville - When I picked out this restaurant for dinner shortly before our flight, I did not understand what Family Style meant. Now I do. I've heard that what I experienced was atypical, but at Monell's, they sit you at a table with a bunch of strangers and then bring out endless waves of really good southern food. The highlight was the baked blackened chicken but it was all so good (except maybe the deep fried pork chop). It weighs endlessly on my soul that fried chicken in London will never taste as good again.
16) Angry Orchard Green Apple Cider - A guilty pleasure. This isn't sophisticated (in fact some hae told me it's a teenage girl drink) but I don't care. Green apples are (at their best) my favourite fruit in the world, and this cider captures the refreshing hit of sugar and acid better than any other green apple drink I know (and I know a few). You can get Angry Orchard's regular in the UK, but not the Green Apple, and that makes me sad.
15) Cajun dusted Salmon with mango-lime quinoa salad and grilled pineapple - I had this at the Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh and while the name would indicate it's the sort of place to go to drink, and they do have good beer there, I remember this meal far better because the balance of flavours was beautiful.
14) Biscuits and Gravy - I still don't quite understand the American obsession with this dish (think unsweetened scones and creamy melted down sausage meat for those unaware of the US definitions of these terms) but I came a little closer in Durham, New Hampshire, at Youngs Restaurant. My lady had these, not me, which I mildly regret now thinking back to it, but the addition of chorizo to the usual Italian sausage was a winner. She rhapsodised about them; I can only agree.
13) Ginger Garlic Shrimp with Noodles - On previous trips, the food from Headkeeper in Greensburg might have taken up multiple spaces in the top 10. Now, maybe I've been spoiled, or maybe it's a case of me preferring previous of their seasonal menus, but this hasn't happened this time. Still, they do really good food, and this dish was everything it should have been. I ate a lot of noodles on those three months, and these were the best.
12) Lobster Roll - I have this at Peteys, a seafood place up somewhere on the coast of New Hampshire. As far as I'm concerned, the only reason to visit New England is to eat lobster (sorry Jon, you're not as cool as lobster). This meant I ate a hell of a lot of them in my four days there and this was comfortably the best.
11) Arsenal Griersons Ginger Apple - You can only get Arsenal Cider at the Arsenal Cider House in Pittsburgh (well, ok, a few other places too). This is annoying as it meant it took ages for me to any of their products. They do a lot of good cider but the Griersons was hands down oh my days the best. Somehow, the concept of cider and ginger had never ever been introduced to me before. I'm serious. From now on, after Griersons, it will be remembered.
10) Southern Tier Chokolat - I can't believe it's taken me this long to include a chocolate stout on the list but then maybe that's because I really, really love chocolate stout and this means they all hit the top 10. Chokolat is rich and intense; expensive, but worth it. Southern Tier is opening a brewery in Pittsburgh and I literally could not be more excited about that unless they gave me Willy Wonka-style tickets to investigate when it opened.
9) Founders Rubaeus - The last non-chocolate beer on the list, Founders Rubaeus is a raspberry ale that manages the neat trick of replicating the tart notes of a raspberry without it jarring with the beer itself. I've found no one else who's managed that; when it was on tap at Three Rivers Six Pack, I drank an awful lot of it.
8) Chicken Fried Steak - The concept of chicken fried steak - that being coating steak as if it was chicken, then deep frying it - is ridiculous to me. This is why it's taken me so long to try it. Having done so at Pucketts in Nashville, I can now only say that I am an idiot and that honestly, this is a really tasty (if unhealthy) way to eat steak.
7) Sam Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout - Hang on, hang on, Sam Smith's is British! Well it is, but I only drank it for the first time in the States and oh my gods it's delicious. I don't think I've ever had a chocolate stout that was simultaneously this chocolatey and this creamy. Most of the things on this list, I must merely dream of until I'm next back (and have lost that half a stone). Not this though, this could keep me a fat bastard for a long while further yet.
6) Guacamole - For some reason, Tako does not have its guacamole menu online, and I can't remember what exactly went into it. I think it was crab, pineapple, and habaneros. I remember it was spectacular. We'd gone to Tako for the tacos and the chicken wings and while they were pretty good, the guac is what stuck in my mind. And I don't even like guac. Unless it's with crab, pineapple and habaneros.
5) Beef Brisket and Rib Tips - Just like Church Brew Works, we were at Against The Grain in Louisville, Kentucky, to drink beer, but it's the food that stays with me. In particular, the brisket was the best I'd ever had, but the Rib Tips were serious business too.
4) Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout - It should be obvious by now that I really like chocolate stout. Apparently what I like even more than that is chocolate and coffee stout that's then aged in bourbon barrels. There's something borderline hallucinogenic about it as well as being utterly delicious. I saw it sell out like hot cakes and I absolutely understand why.
3) Ribeye Sandwich - Gaucho Parilla Argentina is an Argentine sandwich place in Pittsburgh. Some people will tell you that it's one of the very top food places to visit in the USA. That might be a slight exaggeration but only slight. Very slight. Previously, I had been a loss for why anyone would waste steak on a sandwich. Now I know. You shove it into a big ciabatta with chimmi, caramelised onions and peppers
2) Terrapin Tia Moo Hoo - The Moo Hoo is a chocolate milk stout that narrowly missed out on this list on its own merits. Tia Moo Hoo was a mad limited edition release that gave that drink the flavours of Tiramisu. I've no idea whether that should work or not, but it did, and the flavour shall rest ever more in my memory.
1) Tacos Al Pastor - I had these in Madero Cantina, a little place out in Murraysville, a week or so after landing and they were amazing. Madero boasts of its authenticity; what I know of authentic Mexican cuisine could be tattooed on a pygmy shrew's penis, but the combination of marinated pork and grilled pineapple was delicious. I ate a lot of tacos in my three months in America, and these were the best. The best thing I ate. Next time I'm out, I'm going back.